20 February 2015

TV: Cucumber iv

Russell T Davies clearly has a very specific vision for this show, and I for one am totally excited about it. Average writers might try to make their stories bigger by building them around cataclysmic external events, but Davies is such a master of his trade that he knows that from a character perspective, the more satisfying option is to explore the things that matter to everyone - namely the first date.

And so this episode concerns itself for the most part, as the first in the series did, with a single night. We follow Henry, Lance, Cleo, Freddie and Dean as they all go on their separate Saturday evenings/Sunday mornings. These are as varied and amusing as you'd expect from a mind as unconventional as Davies'. Even though some of these evenings may seem 'normal' (Freddie, for example, goes for dinner with a girl before taking her home) but it's the personal journeys all our leads go on that makes this so good.

Henry meets with the date arranged for him by Freddie, and it goes very well. Rupert - the date - is very keen to consummate the relationship instantly, but we know from the last couple of episodes that Henry is nowhere near as eager. Instead, he gets him hammered and they go for a takeaway. At a diner, we get one of the most Russell T Davies scenes imaginable, as Henry and Leigh (a friend of Rupert's friend, who happens to show up) discuss the minutiae of their respective relationships in a cafe. An ordinary cafe. Any cafe. They of course end up in Henry's bed, and it's really nice just to see him having fun for once, after all the stress he's usually under. Vincent Franklin is again amazing, and his acting really is all in the eyes. I noticed this first last episode, when he was watching Adam and Tomas, but it's unmissable here.

Lance goes out with a work colleague, but his love for Henry gets the better of him and prevents him from sleeping with them. In a cab home, he phones Daniel, who ends up inviting him over. There's a very brief shot, but it sums up Davies' writing for me. In interviews, he always mentions that life's about the little things that change your future forever. As he notes, he even wrote an entire Doctor Who story about it (Turn Left fact fans). And sure enough, stopped at a t-junction, Lance makes the decision and the cab goes right instead of left. He ends up staying the night at Daniel's, but nothing happens. I like the sly role reversal of the series - while Lance is apparently the one completely up for it to start with, by this point it's Henry who's off having fun with another man. I expect to see more of this before the series is out.

Cleo meets up with an old friend, Brian, for dinner. But as it turns out, they have more than that planned for the night. Even though Brian's engaged, there's clearly history there, but this isn't as simple as cheating. Cleo just wants a man, after all the trauma she's gone through, and he's willing to give it to her once to help her out. She changes her mind though, wanting to wait for the right man who she can be in a proper relationship with. And Freddie learns that there are other people as open-minded as him, and in Anna he's found someone who he might be happy with. After half a series of being portrayed as the ladies' and gentlemen's man, it's nice to see him attempt to settle down a little, no matter how much he's worried about it.

Dean has possibly the strangest storyline in this episode. Apparently kidnapped, he's soon taken to a house out in the country. It turns out his kidnappers are another couple, and making them big burly blokes called Clive and Boris made me hoot. It's lovely to see things turning a corner at the halfway point of the series, but it's equally a tragedy that we're already halfway through. I know Davies has '80s AIDS drama The Boys coming in the future, but after that I'd love a return to the lives of Henry and co.

While this episode sports a great wealth of talent (including Bethany Black, who I know features prominently in this week's Banana), both in front and behind the camera - Murray Gold and Alice Troughton both contribute massively to this - the relationship between Vincent Franklin's acting and Russell's writing is just magic. Each enhances the other, and as such Henry is my favourite TV character for a long time. This really is the perfect series. I can't wait to see where all our characters are taken next.

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